Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Head Nods

It seems like I am constantly tripping and falling on this island. I usually trip in front of other people or in front of cars driving past. And the first thing I do as I can feel gravity doing me wrong, is put my hands out and fling any precious items in my hands to the side (kindle, iPod). I don`t want to ruin them with my always-less-than-graceful landings. The second thing is to check my pants to make sure I didn`t rip them. The last thing usually involves a lot of swearing and muttering under my breath.

Classes are going well. I think I still intimidate some of the kids but you know you are making strides when they come to collect you for lunch by themselves in the junior high, rather than like a herd of gazelles - safety in numbers. Don`t worry, kids. I got my vampire teeth pulled out in the 4th grade before I got braces. I don`t bite. I am working with the junior class preparing to go to university in the high school. It involves a lot of reading texts and then going over vocabulary and comprehension. It`s a bit of a yawn factory but that`s what I have been asked to do and more interesting changes in activities to the lesson plan have been deemed unnecessary. So far, since I am unable to change the content of the lessons, the only thing that seems to keep their attention is me using my outdoor voice inside. Just talk like you`re enthusiastic and they`ll pay more attention. I know that reading about the fermentation of tea leaves hasn`t felt inspiring - although I did learn that all teas are actually made from the same tree. Fascinating. I really want to push the students but I am told that they can`t handle being pushed in their English skills. I am convinced that if they focus hard enough, they could hold a conversation with me or answer questions. If you start off a lesson by telling students it`s probably too difficult for them, they aren`t going to give it their all.

The weather in Ojika has been fabulous. It is the perfect temperature. It`s between the bone-chilling and windy cold and the dripping sweat stages. There are flowers in bloom all over the island and farmers have planted their rice and other vegetables. I am really looking forward to the summer! In the early mornings and late afternoons, of course. I will be too busy wallowing in my own sweat at all other times of the day. I`m hoping that getting into shape will cut down on misery come July.

When I go for my walks on the island, one thing that seems a bit much is all the nodding people expect you to do. A lot of drivers going past will nod and while I understand this as a courtesy in Japan, I also find it highly unnecessary. I get it. You are being respectful by acknowledging me - but I don`t need to be acknowledged. Just like I don`t need you to acknowledge that I fell back there on the sidewalk. I need to listen to my "Super Sassy Workout Mix" iTunes playlist and think about what I`m making for dinner or about my ten-year plan. I like to zone out during my walks and worrying about offending someone by not bowing with my head seems too much to bear. I have noticed that women are far more courteous toward me in car-bowing. The bus driver and the lone taxi driver in Ojika, however, are always willing to give a wave. It`s all very Mr. Roger`s neighborhood sometimes. I should do some kind of study on this.

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